Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops (and other related issues/teams). Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.
Barb from Richmond: Just finished watching the UNC-Indiana game, and I’m panicking about the Tar Heels. Should I be panicking?
Pickeral: No. Probably not.
Look, no fan likes to hear the excuse “they’re young, they’re still learning.” But they’re young. They’re still learning.
Frankly, considering what they lost (four starters to the NBA draft), what they returned (role players with potential, plus a couple of guys coming off knee injuries) and what they brought in (four freshmen in various stages of development), the Tar Heels were overrated when they began the season ranked in the top 15. Sophomore James Michael McAdoo, for all his talent, is not a traditional post player. UNC -- which hasn’t shot well from long distance for the last two seasons -- finds itself having to rely on outside shooting because its forwards are so inexperienced. The Tar Heels start a freshman point guard.
There don’t appear to be any chemistry issues, like in 2009-10. But they do need to learn patience and teamwork (and consistent effort and toughness) when they get behind, instead of playing like a bunch of panicked individuals. As McAdoo told The News & Observer after the blowout loss at Indiana:
“We’re great off the court, but on the court I feel like when they were going on that run, we were kind of all looking to each other when we should have been just coming together as a team and looking at each other as a team, and knowing that not one person – not me, not anyone – had to make one spectacular play that was going to bring us back,’’ he said. “It was definitely something that we had to do and just chip away. And something that we knew we were capable of doing. We were able to do it in the Butler game.”
The Tar Heels do have the potential to get better. But it could be a sometimes-frustrating process for them -- and for fans. Don't expect them to be in the Top 25 next week; they'll have to earn their way back.
Sean from Hopkins, Minn., writes: During the 2 previous seasons, the Heels averaged less than 16 3-pointers per game. In the last 4 games, Carolina has attempted 26, 32, 22, and 27. Are you concerned by the Heels increased reliance on the 3-ball? What about the coaches? You know the old saying: Live by the 3, die by the 3...
Pickeral: Not sure they have much of a choice, Sean. Coach Roy Williams said from the beginning this team was going to have to be a good outside shooting team, what with McAdoo -- who started only three games last season -- the most experienced post player returning.
The question is, are the right guys taking the highest number of 3-pointers? Reggie Bullock is 16-for-34 this season on his 3-point shots. The Tar Heels need more out of him -- whether it’s 2s or 3s.
Jeff Tischer from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Watching some of the Indiana/NC game, and one thing I find intolerable is Tom Crean's blatant disregard for the limitations of the coaches box and the sideline. Why the refs don't warn him or "T" him up is beyond me. The court is the PLAYING surface, and the coach has no place on it, at least not with frequency and degree of violation Crean gets away with. Reffing a basketball game is hard enough without having to keep an eye out so you don't run into a non-player! I'm not a big NC fan, but I am a fan of Roy Williams and have always been impressed with how he conducts himself. Take a cue from Roy, Tom, and take a seat!!!
Pickeral: Hey, Jeff. If I remember correctly, there was a re-emphasis placed on the “coach decorum” rules a few years back, which included keeping coaches in their designated space. But many obviously hate to (excuse the bad word play) be boxed in, and the officials have some leeway with their whistles.
My favorites are the coaches who tip-toe right to the edge of their box, without stepping over. (And you know they really, really want to.)
Adam from Charlotte, N.C., writes: Saw you covered the OSU-Duke game. So, Duke or Indy? Who’s No. 1?
Pickeral: Right now, it has to be Duke. Indiana has so much talent, but Duke has the résumé, with wins over three top-5 teams this month (not to mention Minnesota and VCU). Wish the Hoosiers and Devils could lace ‘em up against each other before their respective conference seasons -- but then, hey, where would the debate be? Guess we’ll have to wait until March, unfortunately.
Alex from Chapel Hill, N.C., writes: Noticed that they’ve already hung Tyler Zeller’s and Harrison Barnes’ jerseys in the Smith Center rafters, but there hasn’t been any ceremony. Is there going to be a ceremony?
Pickeral: Yes, there will be an honored jerseys ceremony, but it hasn’t been scheduled yet. In years past, NBA players have been able to return to Chapel Hill during the All-Star break, but it will depend on whether either participates in the NBA Rookie Game. Stay tuned.